Holistic nursing care is the practice of seeing, treating, and healing the patient in a variety of ways. The American Holistic Nurses Association (AHNA) defines holistic nursing as the practice of “healing the whole person.” This means that nurses should consider a patient’s body, mind, spirit, culture, socioeconomic background, and environment when delivering care. The AHNA endorses the holistic approach for all nursing practices.
This approach to nursing was pioneered by Florence Nightingale in the 1800s and nurtured the principles of holism: unity, wellness, and the interrelationship of human beings and their environment.
Why is it important?
Holistic nursing is applicable to every facet of the nursing profession. Whether it’s aiding a mother in childbirth or providing end-of-life care to an elderly patient, this approach to nursing provides the patient with genuine care and human connection.
This type of nursing is founded on the understanding that a person’s biological, social, psychological, and spiritual health are closely intertwined. Traditional Western medical practices typically focus solely on tests, procedures, and genetics — whereas holistic nursing care emphasizes the role of the individual’s experiences and environment. Rather than focusing on only the illness itself, the holistic nurse focuses their efforts on healing the individual and addressing their environment.
Types of holistic nursing care
Holistic nursing care is a vast field with different perspectives on what may be the best treatment option for a patient. The holistic care nurse considers the biological, emotional, and socio-economic factors of the patient to influence the type of care that they receive. Some of these treatments include:
- Stress management techniques
- Chiropractic care
- Hypnosis, hydrotherapy, and balneotherapy
- Chinese and Eastern healing practices
- Wellness coaching
This approach to healing avoids the use of prescription medication and focuses on healing through therapies that treat the mind, body, and spirit. Many of these treatments include herbal remedies, stretching, and physical and mental exercises.
One of the many benefits of this approach to care is the minimal amount of side effects. Prescription medications often come with harmful side effects that leave the patient feeling worse. Holistic medicine focuses on natural methods of healing.
Skills and values of holistic nursing
Holistic nursing focuses on healing through a common understanding of shared morals and values regarding the human experience. The Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine (AIHM) defined the core principles of holistic nursing care that simplify the values surrounding integrative medicine:
- Prevention is the best intervention.
- Integration of healing systems is effective.
- Holistic medicine is relationship-centered care.
- Care should be individualized.
- Teach by example.
- Healing powers are innate.
- All experiences are learning opportunities.
- Embrace the healing power of love.
- Optimal health is the primary goal.
Holistic nursing care has become a standard practice in modern medicine, especially in the aftermath of a global pandemic with staggering numbers of deaths. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become critical to prioritize the importance of connecting with patients and healing more than just their illness.
Holistic nurses do not limit their philosophy solely to their career. Typically, holistic care values are at the heart of who they are and the lives that they lead. By believing in the practices wholeheartedly, the quality of care they provide is genuine and more successful.
Responsibilities of a holistic nurse
The responsibilities of a holistic nurse are the same as a traditional nurse but require the nurse to analyze patient care with a holistic lens that encompasses all facets of healing — both conventional and those considered to be more natural. To consider practices holistic, they must include the following elements: knowledge, theories, expertise, intuition, and creativity.
Knowledge of the nursing profession is essential to make logical and informed decisions to best serve the patient. Knowledge of holistic practices make for a more well-rounded nurse who can provide care that does not solely rely on prescription medication. Understanding theories is crucial for implementing practices, explaining their purpose, and reflecting on the experience and outcome.
Expertise comes from experience and accurately assessing the patient and providing appropriate care. Intuition is closely intertwined with holistic care because it emphasizes the importance of listening to the body. This requires the nurse to carefully listen to the experience and symptoms of the patient and choose the best course of treatment.
Creativity is essential because the holistic nurse understands that prescription medications are not a “cure all” for everyone. They are creative with their treatment plans to meet the diverse needs of their patients. By implementing these elements, the holistic nurse works cognitively, experientially, and accurately.
Nurses with a holistic nursing specialty are highly beneficial to any healthcare system because they provide insight on natural methods of care that often have much fewer side effects than conventional treatments. They also enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts in the healthcare system by taking the patient’s body, mind, spirit, culture, socioeconomic background, and environment in consideration when administering care. This allows patients to not only be treated by a healthcare professional, but also to be seen, heard, understood, and cared for to a greater extent.
Holistic nursing is evolving into an industry standard now that more patients and healthcare professionals alike are realizing its benefits.
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